London Police Chief Looks Back at 2021 – London | The Canadian News

Looking back, 2020 was a unique year when it came to surveillance during the onset of COVID-19, and 2021 was no different in London, Ontario.

London Police Chief Steve Williams said police faced many challenges, from the exhaustion of officers to the types of calls they responded to on a daily basis.

Williams estimates that since early 2021, they have received more than 70,000 calls for service, compared to 2020. He said there was a drop in calls for 2020, but that this year’s numbers were very similar to 2019.

“The time we spent on about the same number of calls as a couple of years ago is a lot longer,” Williams said.

Williams noted that, as in other areas, London has seen an increase in guns in the community, with more officers finding them in regular searches rather than just investigations.

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London saw four murders in 2020, compared to 13 this year, which Williams says is a concern, but hopefully not a new pattern.

In August, London Police and several local healthcare organizations launched the Community Outreach and Support Team, or COAST.

The program partners two mental health professionals with a police officer to reduce police-led responses to addiction or mental health crisis situations, and improve outcomes for those involved by ensuring they receive the care they need in the workplace. suitable environment.

Williams said the program focuses on reducing the number of repeat mental health calls by helping address the root cause of her problems.

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Williams said the number one problem the force is dealing with is officer burnout.

“One thing that often gets lost in the conversation is that our members have families, they have loved ones that they haven’t been able to visit,” Williams said.

“Like everyone else, their lives have been turned upside down, but by the very nature of the work they do, they cannot be that flexible, most cannot work from home, so they are dealing with COVID in a very sense. personal. “

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To address the problem, Williams said they will add more officers and make sure officers have access to mental health supports.

Two tragedies that had an impact on officers and the community this year are the London vehicle attack in June and the November accident on Riverside Drive involving a troop of Girl Guides.

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In June, five members of the Afzaal-Salman family were out for a night walk in the city’s Hyde Park neighborhood when they were hit by a pickup truck. Local police have called the attack a hate crime and say the family was targeted for their religion.

Then, in November, an eight-year-old girl was killed and nine other pedestrians, including a troop of Guides, were injured after a car ran off the road.

Both cases are still under investigation, and Williams said they affected responding officers.

“If there is something positive that came out of this it was the way our officers responded, but also the way the community comes together.”

Moving into 2022, Williams said helping stop officer burnout will be a key priority and hopefully seeing the end of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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